I won’t beat around the bush – for me, Forza takes the prize. “Horizon” aside, Forza wins this debate in my book from the release of Forza 2 onward to Forza 4.
That’s not to say I’m not a Gran Turismo fan, I am…in fact, I’ll wager I was one of the first. The original Gran Turismo was released in late 1997 in Japan and wasn’t available in North America until mid 1998. I jumped in early just after release with a Japanese import that I paid about $80.00 for at a privately owned local game store (remember those?). I went into the store one day and saw a few employees crowded around the manager who was playing in arcade mode. At the time, the graphics were impressive and the tuning system was pretty revolutionary as was the wide selection of cars. And the replays were killer…It looked like the Japanese Best Motoring videos I’d seen playing in loops at the local tuning shops. Even then, games were region coded but this wasn’t a problem for me…
Thankfully, my early SCPH-1001 Playstation 1 was able to play imported games using a little trick…as it was explained to me long ago, the region coding was the first track of the CD that the machine read. With early Playstations, people were able to load up the Playstation logo of a USA game with the console cover open and a piece of tape on the button that normally tells the machine the lid is closed. This would effectively load the region coding of the USA game…then when the disc stopped spinning, you could swap in an imported game, close the lid and play.
It took one night for me to get simply HOOKED on Gran Turismo. A few hours into gameplay and I already had a few cars in my garage. I remember very specifically building a powerful late model Supra Turbo (a car I’d only dreamed of stock let alone upgraded). GT1 was just about the only game I played until the sequel came out in late 1999. I was in college then and it took some phone calls before I found a store on release day that had unreserved stock. Luckily, I spoke to a KB toys employee who was equally obsessed with the first game and he held onto a copy for me until I made my way to the store. I skipped classes that day and played GT2 ALL day and well into the night. The one thing I loved about GT2 was the boost gauge…I know it’s silly, but it was pretty neat.
It was the same story with GT3 and GT4…they were my “go-to” games for years. At that point, I’d played the original Forza game and wasn’t terribly impressed. I was SO hardcore for Gran Turismo, I probably didn’t give Forza the time it deserved. However, once I got an Xbox 360 and Forza 2 I fell in love. I found Forza easy to navigate…the game just made sense. The graphics blew GT4 out of the water and the sound of each engine was spot on as opposed to Gran Turismo’s typical “buzz.” I found each successor in the Forza series to improve on the previous game. In fact, I was always so impressed that Forza could put out new and improved titles so quickly while all we heard from the Gran Turismo camp is “we’re working on it.”
The Gran Turismo PSP release in 2009 was the first sign that things weren’t going well in the series. It was a bland game that I regret getting. The entire appeal of Gran Turismo was building a garage of custom cars in career mode and racing in various events. Unfortunately, GT PSP was basically Gran Turismo 4’s arcade mode and not much else. My theory is that they had to pay Jay Leno so much to use his voice in the License test portion that little was left in the budget for actual gameplay improvements. Again, that’s just a theory from some idiot on the internet (me) so take it with a grain of salt.
When GT5 was finally released I was READY! I got myself a PS3 and pre-ordered the game and was prepared to be amazed. Afterall, Polyphony Digital had years to perfect their title and revolutionize the genre once again. Unfortunately, GT5 was a let down for me. I can’t understand why evey car doesn’t get the same level of detail in the graphics department (some cars have full interiors, others just silhouettes). The sound is just as buzzy as ever and while the driving physics may be the most accurate, that doesn’t make for a perfect video game.
Again and again, I go back to my Forza games to chase lap times, race online or just build a car and go for a quick blast. Maybe things will change with the next cycle of games because I really want Gran Turismo to OWN the series again.
Inclined to agree, buddy. Truthfully, I’m a dyed in the wool GT-er (my first experience in the game was a PS1 demo disc with the Dodge Viper at Trial Mountain. I still remember staring at the screen, agog at how “realistic” those, by today’s standards, pixellated messes were. There was something so cool about getting turned loose in the cars of my middle school fantasies… I played the wheels off of that game, and remember how cool I was when I finally unlocked the Dodge Concept Car Racing version and everybody at school would shove their memory cards into my hands and ask me to save the game to their cards, too.)
I’ve followed the series all the way through, even buying two consoles (the PS 2 and 3) purely for access to the Gran Turismo content.
In many ways, GT5 is the fulfillment of the promise made by GT1, it really is the “Ultimate Driving Simulator” with cars that (at least to the best of my knowledge) accurately reflect all aspects of their real-life counterparts (at least the Premium models, I suppose). The game is a fulfillment of the mission to provide the most realistic platform-based driving game possible.
Somewhere along the line, though, the mission was lost… The point was always immersion, and yet with the “Standard” spec cars, GT 5 lost sight of it. The point was always the uniqueness of the cars (see TVR or the Renault Espace F1) yet in the midst of 78 different versions of the 1998 Mazda Miata GT5 failed. The point was always in providing players with a unique level of car customization, and yet with 3 standard body kits for Premium Cars, and a half-dozen of the ugliest rear wings in the history of automobiles for Standard Cars, that point was failed in GT 5. The point was always an expansive single-player campaign mode, and yet by getting rid of the ability to re-win prize cars, GT 5 essentially lost the ability to keep players engaged with the single-player content (and don’t even get me started on B-Spec or the 24-hour, real-time endurance races…)
The truth is that Polyphony Digital failed to recognize how Forza was outdoing them at their own game by providing players with immersion, with uniqueness, with customization, and with replayability. There are those out there who’ve managed to salvage their GT experience by pouring into the online mode, but without unique prizes, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between online and grinding… Even with “Seasonal Events” added, I still don’t understand why the burden is so difficult for Polyphony, or why the content or nature of “Seasonal Events” have been more or less homogenous until the recent addition of “overtake challenges.”
Sadly, for now, I have to concede the crown of replayability and enjoyment to the Forza Motorsports series. I’ve played both, and in my heart-of-hearts I’ll always remain a Gran Turismo guy, but at the same time, GT6 is going to have to address the failings of 5 and provide players with a truly immersive experience if they want to catch my attention. That said, I still (perhaps naively) hold out hope that PD can finally figure out their flaws in GT5 and build a better mousetrap in GT6.
Either way, I hope to see you trackside.
Thanks for your comment! I completely agree. At this point, the question is did Polyphony release GT5 knowing it was a subpar game? We can’t really say they rushed development considering the huge gap in time between GT4 and GT5…but perhaps there was pressure to get something out to the market even if it was a subpar offering. The other side of the coin is that they were completely happy with the final product and are now dealing with the aftermath. Either way, I’m hoping that GT6 will bring the series back to glory. Fingers crossed!